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An Oxfordshire Farmer

East and South East

An Oxfordshire farmer with a lifetime’s experience in agriculture wrote to the Health and Safety Executive in support of its “Make the Promise” agricultural safety campaign after a near miss experience left him shaken and concerned. His years in the industry have included successful dairy farming, pig and arable farming. Like many farmers of his ilk and experience he had suffered injuries at work. His view point on the hazards and potential dangers working in agriculture entails had been one of stoic acceptance ‘In that it is all really part of the job.’

But after an incident in the spring of this year which shook him to the core, he wanted to warn other farmers about what had happened to him in the interest of their safety.

“I wanted to contribute to the campaign in the light of my experience and to warn other farming colleagues of what can happen if precautions are not taken.”

In the past the farmer had had his share of accidents on the farm. Several years ago he badly burned his left arm from the wrist to the shoulder when the weak cap on an overheated combine radiator blew and scalded him stripping the skin from his wrist to shoulder. “I had followed the instructions to the letter in terms of removing the cap,” he said “But it must have been weak and it blew straight off as I touched it.”

He also suffered a fall through the chipboard roof of a pig pen. Although it was only five feet onto the concrete he fractured a rib and damaged his spleen and kidneys. “I did not think that both these incidents had occurred because I was careless,” he said “I accepted what had happened and got back to the job as quickly as I could.”

But the incident in spring had a profound effect on him when he was fertilising one of the crop fields with nitrogen. It was the middle of the day, dry and with good light. He had made good progress with the work and was reloading the spreader from a fresh sack of nitrogen from one of the bags loaded onto the large tractor in the field.

He had lifted the nitrogen bag from the tractor and had his back to it while he poured the contents of the bag into the spreader. The ground was level and he had not put the hand brake on the tractor. He concentrated on filling the spreader and did not hear any sound but what he then felt was a slight touch on his back

“I don’t know how I knew but when I felt it some sixth sense made me jump side wards very quickly as the tractor rolled forward onto the spreader,” he said. “Had I not moved as quickly as I did I would have been trapped and crushed possibly to death by the weight of it. As it was it just caught my shoulder but I managed to pull myself clear. I knew that had been a very near miss indeed.

“Because the ground in the field was level I had not felt the need to put the tractor hand brake on. But I think that when I lifted that particular bag of fertiliser from the tractor it had lightened the load sufficiently to let the vehicle roll slowly forward. It was a very frightening experience. I did not tell my wife at the time as she is always checking to see if I am alright wherever I am on the farm and she would have been very upset. Now I am much more aware when working with any of the farm vehicles and the handbrake goes on EVERY time whatever the job. It is a simple safety precaution but one that can make the difference between life and death.”

Updated: 2015-02-13